Guess what: The New England Patriots are vulnerable. Not beatable, at least not yet, but vulnerable. The Patriots improved to 11-0, the NFL’s only undefeated team, with their toughest win, 31-28 over the spunky Philadelphia Eagles, a 22-point underdog. New England needed two interceptions by Asante Samuel, one for a touchdown, and a late 4-yard score from Laurence Maroney for the decisive points Sunday night.
It was the biggest test the Patriots have passed thus far in a season when, generally, they’ve blown out opponents.
“The goal is to win the game and we did that,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “I wish we could have played better. I wish everybody could have played better. We won so we can be happy.”
Wes Welker took advantage of the blanket coverage on Randy Moss to catch a career-high 13 passes for 149 yards.
“I don’t think that was the case where (it was) give me the ball,” Welker said. “Whenever your number is called you have to step up to the plate. We all have done it. Tonight was the night for me.”
Elsewhere, in two wild overtime games, Chicago beat Denver 37-34 and San Francisco took Arizona 37-31. Also, it was San Diego 32, Baltimore 14; Seattle 24, St. Louis 19; Minnesota 41, the New York Giants 17; Tampa Bay 19, Washington 13; Oakland 20, Kansas City 17; Jacksonville 36, Buffalo 14; Cleveland 27, Houston 17; Cincinnati 35, Tennessee 6; and New Orleans 31, Carolina 6.
On Thanksgiving Day, it was Dallas 34, the New York Jets 3; Green Bay 37, Detroit 26; and Indianapolis 31, Atlanta 13.
The Monday night game has winless Miami at Pittsburgh.
Patriots 31, Eagles 28
Early Sunday, the Bills’ loss clinched the AFC East for New England.
Samuel’s TD return covered 40 yards. Maroney’s score capped a 69-yard drive. Brady completed 34 of 54 throws for 380 yards and one touchdown, the first time this season he has been held to fewer than three TD passes in a game.
For the Eagles (5-6), A.J. Feeley, playing for injured starter Donovan McNabb, finished 27-for-42 for 345 yards with three touchdown passes, two to Greg Lewis, and three interceptions.
“Three points, man. Three points. The Patriots and three points,” said Eagles coach Andy Reid whose team also lost the 2005 Super Bowl to New England by three. “They’re killing me with it.”
Bears 37, Broncos 34
At Chicago, Robbie Gould kicked a 39-yard field goal in overtime and the defending NFC champions (5-6) gave their flickering playoff hopes a boost.
After scoring two touchdowns in the final 5:17 of regulation, the Bears won the coin toss for overtime. They drove from their 24 to the Denver 18 and Gould delivered the winner.
The Bears got two long touchdown returns from Devin Hester in the second half, one on a punt, the other on a kickoff.
“I take it personal when a team says they are going to kick it to us,” he said. “They feel like they are kicking it to us because they feel we’re not good.”
The Bears trailed 34-20 early in the fourth quarter after an acrobatic 14-yard touchdown catch by Tony Scheffler for Denver (5-6). Charles Tillman then blocked a punt that led to a 4-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson. The Bears tied it with 28 seconds left in regulation on a 3-yard reception by Bernard Berrian, who spun away from Champ Bailey and lunged to catch the pass from Rex Grossman on the right side of the end zone.
49ers 37, Cardinals 31, OT
Kurt Warner was hit by Ronald Fields and fumbled in the Arizona end zone, and Tully Banta-Cain recovered for a touchdown that ended the 49ers’ eight-game losing streak.
“You could have swore we just won the Super Bowl the way we were celebrating,” Banta-Cain said. The 49ers are 2-0 against Arizona, 1-8 against everybody else.
Neil Rackers, whose 19-yard field goal as regulation ended forced the overtime, missed a 32-yarder that would have given host Arizona the victory moments earlier.
Warner completed 34 of 48 passes for 484 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice. His completions included a desperation 48-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald to put the Cardinals (5-6) ahead 21-17 as the half ended.
Chargers 32, Ravens 14
At San Diego, LaDainian Tomlinson reached 10,000 career yards rushing, making him the 23rd player in NFL history to reach the milestone. The Chargers (6-5) won for the fifth time in seven games following their shocking 1-3 start.
Philip Rivers rediscovered Antonio Gates, throwing two of his three touchdown passes to the All-Pro tight end. Rivers, who came in leading the NFL with 17 turnovers, didn’t throw an interception for only the third game this season.
The Ravens (4-7) lost their franchise-record fifth straight. Kyle Boller was sacked four times.
Seahawks 24, Rams 19
At St. Louis, Rams backup quarterback Gus Frerotte fumbled the snap on fourth-and-goal from the Seattle 1 with 27 seconds left.
The Rams (2-9) had one last chance when Josh Brown missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt with 2:44 to go. The Rams took over at their 42 and drove to the 4 with just over a minute to play.
Frerotte, playing after starter Marc Bulger left with a concussion in the first quarter, couldn’t get St. Louis into the end zone.
Seattle (7-4) won its third straight by rallying for 17 unanswered second-half points. The Seahawks went ahead for the first time with 5:57 to play on Leonard Weaver’s 4-yard run.
Seattle rookie Josh Wilson returned a first-quarter kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.
Vikings 41, Giants 17
Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith and Chad Greenway picked off passes by Eli Manning and returned them for touchdowns. Sharper scored on a 20-yard return, Smith rumbled 93 yards and Greenway followed from 37 yards just a few plays later. The Vikings set a team single-game record for interception returns for touchdowns.
The Vikings (5-6) nearly had a fourth return in handing the Giants (7-4) their second loss in the past three games. Smith returned a second-quarter interception 19 yards to the Giants 8, setting up a touchdown run by Chester Taylor.
Tarvaris Jackson threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice just 41 seconds after the opening kickoff in helping Minnesota win back-to-back games for the first time this season. Ryan Longwell added two field goals.
Bucs 19, Redskins 13
At Tampa, Fla., Ronde Barber became the Bucs’ interceptions leader with 3:40 remaining and Brian Kelly picked off Jason Campbell’s throw in the end zone with 17 seconds left. The turnovers were the fifth and sixth forced by Tampa Bay’s defense, which also recovered four fumbles to set up a touchdown and three field goals in the first half.
Tampa Bay (7-4) played most of the day without quarterback Jeff Garcia, who injured his back on the first play and remained on the sideline until Washington pulled within a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Barber’s 32nd career interception stopped one Washington threat at the Tampa 31. The Redskins (5-6) had marched from their 7 to the Bucs 16 before Kelly broke in front of Santana Moss in the closing seconds.
The Bucs also got Earnest Graham’s 1-yard touchdown run and four field goals by Matt Bryant. But they were outgained 316-15 and did not make a first down in the second half.
Oakland 20, Kansas City 17
Oakland hadn’t beaten anybody in its division since a 25-24 squeaker over Denver on Nov. 28, 2004, the longest streak of divisional futility in the NFL. The 17-loss streak ended when Justin Fargas rushed for 139 yards on 22 carries for the Raiders (3-8), who also snapped a six-game skid overall and a nine-game losing streak to the host Chiefs.
Kansas City (4-7) got a huge day from rookie third-string running back Kolby Smith, who rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns. But Smith failed on fourth-and-1 from the Raiders 23, the Raiders took over with 4:22 to go and the Chiefs never touched the ball again.
Jaguars 36, Bills 14
At Jacksonville, Fla., Fred Taylor ran for a season-high 104 yards and a touchdown and Josh Scobee kicked five field goals. It was Jacksonville’s third consecutive victory; the Jaguars (8-3) probably need to beat Indianapolis next week to have a shot at the AFC South title.
The Bills (5-6) were hoping to rebound from a 56-10 drubbing against New England. Instead, they got another beating.
David Garrard hooked up with Reggie Williams for a 59-yard score that put Jacksonville ahead 29-14 with 2:39 remaining, then Maurice Jones-Drew added a 17-yard scoring run with 1:43 to play. Garrard was 23-for-37 for a career-high 296 yards and broke a team record for passes without an interception. He has thrown 201 passes without a pick.
Browns 27, Texans 17
At Cleveland, Jamal Lewis rushed for 134 yards and a TD, Kellen Winslow had 10 catches and Derek Anderson threw two touchdown passes.
With their fifth straight victory at home, the Browns (7-4) stayed within striking distance of first-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North and among the wild-card contenders.
The Browns’ three previous games had all been decided by three points, two in OT. Last week, they needed an unforgettable 51-yard field goal at the end of regulation by Phil Dawson to slip past Baltimore.
This was an easier win.
Matt Schaub finished 22-for-36 for 256 yards and two TDs for Houston (5-6). But he was picked off twice.
Bengals 35, Titans 6
At Cincinnati, Chad Johnson had a career-high 12 catches, set the Cincinnati record for career receptions and scored three touchdowns.
One week after Carson Palmer threw a career-high four interceptions, the Bengals (4-7) had a breakout game behind Johnson, who had gone into a funk for the past month.
Johnson piled up 103 yards and his first touchdowns since a 51-45 loss in Cleveland in Week 2. Johnson eclipsed Carl Pickens’ club mark with his 531st career reception in the second quarter. His next catch was a 10-yard touchdown that broke the long drought.
Johnson also had a 2-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter and a 3-yard score in the fourth period.
After emerging as one of the NFL’s first-half surprises, Tennessee (6-5) has lost three in a row. The offense has been sloppy and the defense, without standout tackle Albert Haynesworth, has suddenly lost its ability to stop anybody, giving up 28, 34 and 35 points during the slide.
Saints 31, Panthers 6
Drew Brees shook off a slow start to throw for 260 yards and three touchdowns and run for another score. Marques Colston caught seven passes for 93 yards and a TD for the Saints (5-6), who snapped a two-game losing streak. They remained two games behind division-leading Tampa Bay heading into Sunday’s home game against the Buccaneers.
The Panthers (4-7) lost their fourth straight game, dropped to 0-5 at home and were booed again by their fans after another mistake-filled performance that led QB David Carr to be benched early in the fourth quarter. Carr, getting the start after 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde was a late scratch with a sore back, threw seven straight incompletions to start the game.
DeShaun Foster rushed nine times for minus-5 yards and lost a fumble.